How has digital photography and the demise of photo prints changed the way we store and document? Once you have a digital camera — or smartphone, photographs are basically free. You no longer have to worry about coming to the end of a 36-frame roll of film; you can take multiple images; you can take video. And you don’t have to wait until film is developed and printed to see if your pictures were in focus.
Digital photography has made it easy for visitors to Jewish heritage sites to amass huge amounts of images — leaving what to do with them and issue.
This article on National Public Radio deals with documenting our lives (with family photographs and images) – but it has great bearing on how we document Jewish heritage sites and other physical places, and how we preserve, share and pass down the images.
“We’re so new into this technology, and yet it’s so widely adopted that we’re just in this very unusual state where we’ve got all this kind of fabulous documentation, it’s very fragile, it’s very important, and we haven’t yet figured out a kind of simple, easy way to make it endure,” says archivist Bill LeFurgy. “It’s a major problem.”
The Library of Congress has a Digital Preservation section, whose blog features a post by Butch Lazorchak offering Four Easy Tips for Preserving Your Digital Photographs.
We’ve come up with four simple steps to start you on the digital preservation path: Identify, Decide, Organize, and Make copies (I.D.O.M. anybody?).
Identify means to take an inventory of where you have pictures. Are they still on your camera? On your computer? Stored on a photo-sharing website? Identifying where your photos are located is the first step to getting a handle on preserving them.
Next, decide which photos are the most important. Digital photography makes it easier than ever to keep every picture you take, but that’s not always a good thing, especially if you’ve got similar pictures with only slight variations.
A smaller collection of really essential photographs is easier to maintain than a sprawling mish-mash of everything, so don’t be afraid to toss some away if they aren’t important (a process known in the cultural heritage world asdeaccessioning). If you do get rid of copies, make sure you keep the one with the highest resolution.
Next, organize the photos that you’ve selected. This is the most time-consuming part of the job (depending on how many photos you’ve got) but will be well worth the effort for accessing the pictures in the future.
Give each photo a descriptive file name. My photo has the relatively nonsensical name “butch_dogg.jpg,” but I know exactly which picture it is when I scan through my directories.
[…]Finally, make copies of your pictures and store them in different places. During the “identify” process you probably found pictures stored in a bunch of different places. This is good! That is, as long as you’ve got a system for keeping track of them.